Imagine you’re on the verge of your 80th birthday. Widowed and retired, you plan a trip to Nice, France, where you were born and lived for the first four years of your life. You’re looking forward to exploring the place you’re from. And then, a phone call throws a wrench in your plan.
That’s the beginning of Akin, a new novel by Emma Donoghue.
Noah Selvaggio is a long-time Upper West Sider recently retired from his job as a university professor (he notes that a 70-something professor is impressive, while an 80-something professor has overstayed his welcome). Ahead of his first trip back to his birthplace, he gets a phone call from a social worker. As it happens, he’s the only known relative of Michael, the 11-year-old son of Noah’s deceased nephew. Instead of cancelling his trip, Noah reluctantly decides that Michael will join him.
As in Donoghue’s 2010 best seller, Room, Akin explores the relationship between a younger and older protagonist, though this book is much less upsetting than its predecessor (which, if you’re unfamiliar, is narrated by a 5-year-old boy locked in a backyard shed with his mother, who was abducted two years before his birth).